Katholikon - Hossios Loukas

Department Archive
Collection Byzantine Research Fund
Reference No. BRF/01/01/04/125
Level Item
Place Hossios Loukas Monastery
Dates 1890?
Creator Weir Schultz, Mr Robert
Barnsley, Mr Sidney Howard
Scope and Content Katholikon - Inscription in two halves beside the main door between narthex and naos. Further annotation in pencil survives.
Further information

The monastic complex of Hosios Loukas in Phocis consists of two churches: the Panagia (Theotokos) church built very likely between 961 and 995 (the building has, occasionally, been identified with the Hagia Barbara church built by Krenites, the strategos of the Byzantine theme of Greece while Hossios Loukas was still alive and resident at the site) and that of the Katholikon (early 11th century) which was constructed under the supervision of Abbot Philotheos to house the miraculous relic of the saint. Both monuments, structures of the highest quality and of the most complex design, are considered pivotal in the history of Byzantine architecture and the church-building tradition of the Greek mainland (the so-called ‘Greek-School’).


The splendid Katholikon is the largest surviving example of the Greek cross-octagon type with a two-storey narthex. The church was constructed upon a cruciform burial crypt. The impressive building which is much heavier, complex and monumental than the Panagia church, served as a prototype for major Byzantine monuments such as the katholikon of the Daphni Monastery, the Soteira Lykodemou church, the church of Hagia Sophia at Monenvasia and Hagios Nikolaos at Kampia.


An enfolding series of aisles and galleries, two of which functioned as independent chapels, expands below a large, ripped dome. Wide and narrow, high and low, closed and open surfaces interpenetrate on different levels introducing particularly functional solutions in order to serve the huge number of pilgrims who visited the site.


Ancient spolia have partly been used in the walling which is of irregular cloisonné: dentil courses and single-cut bricks decorate the exterior. The meander frieze below the cornice of the roof is the earliest surviving example of this decorative feature. The church has strongly been influenced by contemporary trends in Constantinopolitan architecture though it has combined borrowed elements with original architectural and decorative features.


Worth noting are the impressive marble revetments which cover the interior walls and the floors, the impressively rich and varied in nature sculpture as well as the interior lavish decoration of the building: mosaics of the highest quality cover the upper-most surfaces of the walls, the arches and the vaults, wall-paintings decorate the crypt and the chapels. The mosaic decoration of the central dome is unfortunately lost.

Reference The Monastery of Saint Luke of Stiris, in Phocis, and the dependent monastery of Saint Nicolas in the Fields, near Skripou, in Boeotia. 28., top.